“When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father – the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father – he will testify about me. And you also must testify, for you have been with me from the beginning.” “Come Holy Spirit and fill the hearts of your faithful people and kindle in us the fire of your love.” Amen. In the name of Jesus dear friends in Christ,
“I want to do it MYSELF!” “I don’t need a map, I don’t need directions, I’ll figure this out MYSELF!” Have you ever spoken similar words? As for me, I’m often very determined to do something or figure something out by myself. And isn’t it true that we often like to be independent? We enjoy our independence as a nation. We often don’t like to rely on the help of others. We like to do things our way and on our terms. Yet, one of the hardest things for many people to do is admit that they need help. When someone is suffering from an addiction one of the first things that needs to take place is for that person to admit he/she has a problem and needs help. The fact is that each and every person cannot make it on their own without help. We need help. Today we thank the Lord that He has provided the help that each of us needs.
Today we’re looking at the work of the Holy Spirit, who is our helper. We often don’t think about the Holy Spirit, but the reality is, none of us would even be here if it wasn’t for the behind-the-scenes work of the Holy Spirit. So as we consider these words of Jesus, I want to consider the work of the Holy Spirit, first of all, who He is, and then secondly, what He does. Who He is. What He does.
First, who is he? Who is the Holy Spirit? The Holy Spirit is the 3rd person of the Triune God. He’s not a force or a concept, he’s a real person of the Triune God. We see all three of the persons of the Triune God here, don’t we? We have the Holy Spirit being sent by Jesus from the Father.
And here in our text we have two names that are used to describe the Holy Spirit. Advocate and Spirit of Truth. I want to start with the second one and then come back to the first one. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Truth. What does that mean? He is the one who gives us ultimate truth. He is the one who is the real author of what we have in the Bible. 2 Peter tells us that “men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” The Holy Spirit is the one who has given us ultimate truth in the words of Holy Scripture.
We spend our lives searching and looking for and trying to decipher what is the truth, right? Is it true what this person is telling me? Is what I’m reading really true? Is what I’m hearing on the news true or is it someone’s bias? Every heart is searching for something to sink their roots into, something that is true that won’t be proven wrong. We have it. It’s called God’s Word, the Bible, how do we know it’s true? Because it was authored by the Spirit of Truth, the Holy Spirit.
But there’s another way that the Spirit of Truth works. He not only inspired the words of the Bible, but He brings those words home into your head and heart. The Bible is very clear about our natural condition born into this world. We were born sinful, born dead in our sins, enemies of God, and we by nature think God’s Word is foolish. We would never believe anything in God’s Word to be true if the Holy Spirit didn’t work faith in our hearts to believe it’s true. And he has! But the Holy Spirit doesn’t stop with bringing this information into our heads, he continues to work bringing the truths of Scripture not just to be true in our heads but also true in our hearts. You see, a pair of glasses are not just meant to be looked at and admired, they are meant to be worn, and when you wear a pair of glasses it changes the way that you look at the entire world. The Spirit of Truth does that. In Ephesians 3 we’re told, “I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.” The Holy Spirit takes the truths of God’s Word, the message of God’s love for you in Jesus, the peace, hope, joy, grace, that is yours because of Jesus and makes it real in your life and displays it in your life through the fruits of the Spirit like: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. What are those? Those are the results of the Holy Spirit taking the truths of God’s Word and making them true not just in your head but in your heart.
He’s also called here the “Advocate.” Now, if you read this passage in different translations you’re going to have a bunch of different translations of this word: comforter, counselor, helper, and some just print the Greek word, Paraklete. The reason is we simply don’t have a good English word to capture this. It comes from the Greek Para which means “alongside” and kaleo which means called, so quite literally it’s someone who calls to give aid. Someone who is your legal advocate. This person is yours, he stands in your position, represents you, completely loyal to you, and is for you in the strongest possible sense. He’s a permanent friend who is continually with you in two ways. A nice way and a hard way. First, a nice way. He defends you against your enemies. When you are afraid, the Holy Spirit is the one who says, “You are God’s dearly loved child.” When you are full of doubts the Holy Spirit comes and says, “No, there is no reason to doubt, you are His, you are loved.” We have these doubts and fears and the Holy Spirit pounds us with the gospel until we relax. But He’s also our advocate in the midst of temptation. The Holy Spirit, when he sees our hearts tempting us away from God, kowing this is going to destroy us, acts the way a loving friend acts toward an addict. What do you do when you love somebody and you see them destroying their lives through addiction? You back them in the corner and you say, “You’re killing yourself, I’m not going to let you do it, I’m going to oppose you, because I love you.” This is a friend, an advocate, a counselor, who comforts and upholds you and confronts you and opposes you.
The final thing that we’re told that the Holy Spirit does is “testify about me.” He testifies, witnesses about Jesus. The Holy Spirit’s work is all over the place but so much behind the scenes. You see, the Holy Spirit’s job is to testify about Jesus. He’s like a flood light. A flood light doesn’t call attention to itself, it’s whole function is to illuminate and draw attention to something else. The Holy Spirit’s work is honoring Jesus. And how does the Holy Spirit honor Jesus? By testifying about Jesus to us.
We have a couple of legal terms that are being used here: Legal advocate, testify. And what’s interesting is that the same word that’s used for the Holy Spirit, Advocate, is also used for Jesus. He is your legal representative before the court. And so if you can picture the court, we have God the Judge and Jesus is your legal representative. But his job isn’t just to plead for mercy. A legal advocate makes a case and bases the case on the law, on justice right? It’s as if Jesus is saying, “Father, you are just, and sin demands payment. This brother or sister of mine has sinned. He has not loved God with all his heart, soul, strength, and mind. He hasn’t loved his neighbor has himself. He has sinned, his sin must be paid for.”
But see, Father, here’s the payment. Here’s my body nailed to the cross, here’s me giving up my spirit, pouring out my blood, I have paid for their sin. And since it would be unjust of you to demand two payments for the same sin, I’m not just pleading for mercy, I’m demanding acquittal, I have paid his sin, he cannot pay for his sin, there cannot be any condemnation for him. Do you know what that means? That means the justice of God is on your side. Here we are with all our tryings and doings and being this or doing that to make up for our past sins, to balance the scales of justice, but it will never work. But since it would be unjust of God to demand two payments for sin, your sins are paid, God’s justice demands that there be no condemnation for you, you’re acquitted, you’re free!
The Holy Spirit’s job is to applying what Jesus has done to you. Pounding it into your heart, dealing with your fears and doubts and temptations. Taking God’s Word and directing you to Jesus. Taking the Lord’s Supper and directing you to Jesus. Look at Jesus. Look at the beauty of what he has done. Look at him standing in your place. The Holy Spirit is an Advocate on earth pointing to our Advocate in haven, making the work of the Advocate in heaven so beautiful to your life that it changes your life.
We need help. We need the work of the Holy Spirit. Are you overcome, thrilled, excited, gripped by Jesus? By the amazing love of your Savior? By your eternal salvation and the eternal joy that Jesus has won for you? That’s the work of the Holy Spirit working through word and Sacrament to bring the joy and peace of Jesus into your heart more and more and more. And what happens? He changes you and He works through you to testify about Jesus to others so the Holy Spirit can fill them and enrapture them with the beauty of what Jesus has done for them too. Amen.